PRODUCERS responsible for more than 95% of recyclable containers sold in Scotland are now registered for the Deposit Return Scheme.

Circularity Scotland has confirmed that by February 28, producers responsible for more than 2 billion recyclable drinks containers had registered for the scheme.

This represents more than 95% of the total volume of products sold in Scotland each year.

Products from a range of sectors including global soft drinks, craft brewers, wine importers and distilleries have been registered with the scheme.

The scheme administrator said that 26,000 products had been registered, which illustrates “the scale of the scheme and the choice that will exist for consumers”.

READ MORE: £22 million support package announced for Deposit Return Scheme

Drinks producers had until midnight on Tuesday to sign up for the scheme but Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has hinted that the UK Government might not agree to a UK Internal Market Act exemption.

Nicola Sturgeon wrote to Rishi Sunak to reiterate the need for an exemption on Tuesday as Scottish Greens MSP Lorna Slater – who is leading the project – faces scepticism about whether the scheme will be delivered on time.

Indeed, two SNP leadership candidates – Kate Forbes and Ash Regan – have said they would delay the scheme.

Following the new statistics, the Scottish Greens welcome the “phenomenal” registration rate, with their environment spokesperson, Mark Ruskell MSP, saying the scheme will “go down in history as one of the most important pieces of work ever done by this parliament”, despite “scaremongering and misinformation”.

He said: “After all the scaremongering and the misinformation we have seen from the Tories and others, this is a phenomenal registration rate, and shows a huge vote of confidence in Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon urges firms to sign up for Deposit Return Scheme amid calls for delay

“Everyone can see the cans and bottles that are blighting our streets and our communities, and the desperate need for this scheme.

“That is why I am delighted that so many businesses from all across Scotland are preparing for the Scheme. Everyone in Scotland can be confident that the majority of brands and retailers in the weekly shop are participating.

“This scheme will go down in history as one of the most important pieces of work ever done by this parliament. It will be a turning point for Scotland’s relationship with litter and recycling."

Another key milestone in the scheme is the opening of registration for Return Point Operators (RPOs).

An RPO is anyone who provides a service for the collection of recyclable PET plastic, metal and glass containers included in Scotland’s scheme and refunds consumers’ deposits.

This service can range from accepting returns over the counter and refunding consumers’ deposits from the till, to operating a Reverse Vending Machine which will automatically accept containers and refund deposits as vouchers.

Most retailers and hospitality businesses that sell drinks to take away are legally required to operate a return point. This includes online retailers of drinks. However, they can apply for an exemption based on proximity to other return points or environmental health reasons. This is being managed by Zero Waste Scotland.

Circularity Scotland chief executive David Harris said: “This is a fantastic start and a real landmark for the Deposit Return Scheme, which is set to deliver ground-breaking environmental benefits to Scotland.

“I would like to warmly welcome and thank all those producers who have registered for the scheme and emphasise that our team of experts are on hand to continue supporting registration.

“We’ve never underestimated the challenge of delivering a scheme which requires the support of so many Scottish businesses. They will all be helping us to reach the goal of recycling billions of PET plastic, glass and metal drinks containers a year. We’re now well on the way to achieving that vital ambition."

Harris encouraged producers who have begun their registration to complete it as soon as possible, as well as assured producers who have yet to sign up, that “we have people on hand to support them through the process.”